People who use drugs, or who have in the past, often report that doctors and/or treatment providers devalue, or are unwilling to believe their claims in regards to substance use issues, in particular the presence and severity of withdrawal. In the case of benzodiazepine withdrawal this can not only lead to significant discomfort, frustration, and trauma for patients, but can lead to serious medical problems. This commentary uses the authors’ recent first-person experience with a disbelieving doctor in order to illustrate the lack of value often given to the claims and narratives of people with lived substance use experience. I outline some of the potential problems with this approach, including the effects on patients themselves and the loss of an important source of evidence-based knowledge. It also discusses potential risks associated with the recent increase in benzodiazepine prescription due to Covid-19 and offers suggestions for improving treatment outcomes.
“I’m pretty sure it’s either food poisoning or COVID-19”: Lived experience versus medical knowledge in diagnosing substance use problems